Three military helicopter crashes have occurred just a few days as two Utah National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in northern Utah at a ski resort last Tuesday morning during a training mission near the Mineral Basin. Another mishap was reported in Hawaii when a Sikorsky S-61N crashed at the US Navy facility Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), leaving four dead.

The 2 Utah National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were said to be en route to an area where they had been approved for winter landing training according to National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 5 (CWO 5) Jared Jones during a press conference. This was reportedly a routine mountain training exercise wherein they were supposed to land a few hundred yards away from the Snowbird ski resort, a resort located in the outskirts of Salt Lake City. The two Black Hawk helicopters were said to crash southeast of the resort.

Friends Jacob Oster and New Zealander Billy Halloran, who were enjoying a ski holiday, recorded the crash while they were on the chairlift at the resort. In the video, it can be seen that the crashes were just a few feet from a group of people, but luckily, no one was hurt, including the crews of the two Blackhawks.

“It was close; it was a pretty scary event,” Shine said. “I think they were intending to be further away in the landing zone. … Just glad everyone walked away,” said witness Robbie Shine in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. Interestingly, a skier named Noah Sikorski, who shares a similar name to the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky, witnessed the two helicopters crash on an area used for snowmobile lessons.

The Utah National Guard said that these types of accidents were “quite rare” as both pilots of the Black Hawks were very experienced individuals. Furthermore, they stated that the incident was still under investigation. However, it was hypothesized that the lead Black Hawk had caused low visibility when landing due to the rotors dispersing snow all over the landing zone. When the first helicopter hit the ground, its rotor reportedly hit the second helicopter, causing both helicopters to be downed.

Utah National Guard spokesperson Jared Jones shares details about a helicopter crash described as a "training accident" during a news conference at Snowbird ski resort (The Salt Lake Tribune). Source:
Utah National Guard spokesperson Jared Jones shares details about a helicopter crash described as a “training accident” during a news conference at Snowbird ski resort (Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune)

“As they landed, the snow kicked up, and the aircraft probably lost sight of the ground,” Jones said. “We know there were portions of the rotor blade that separated from the helicopter and struck the second helicopter,” he continued.

Just last year, three soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial of the New York National Guard, were killed in a crash during a routine training flight. Just a month later, in February 2021, another 3 National Guards from Idaho were killed coming home from a search-and-rescue training. Before that, in 2019, three National Guards were killed during a test flight in Minnesota.